Fred G. Schwarz, a business executive who manufactured high-quality parts for vital industrial products from artificial hearts to space rockets died May 24 in a car collision in Sacramento. He was 81.
He suffered fatal injuries when his car was hit broadside by an SUV while he was turning into a driveway on Watt Avenue in the Arden Arcade neighborhood, according to the California Highway Patrol. The SUV driver was treated at a hospital.
Raised in Germany during World War II, Mr. Schwarz settled in Sacramento in 1957 and founded Tecma, a precision machine shop that became a top subcontractor for Aerojet. His company made parts for historic U.S. spacecraft from Saturn rockets and Apollo lunar landers to space shuttles in addition to nose tips for Titan missiles.
"My dad liked to say that he had parts on the moon," said his daughter Sonia Susac.
Mr. Schwarz also manufactured valves for the Jarvik artificial heart and disabled-access ramps for light-rail cars built for Sacramento Regional Transit. For his friend Karl Mindermann, a master craftsman who oversaw the 1981 state Capitol dome restoration, he designed a machine to simplify the installation of copper sheathing.
In 1993, he joined several Aerojet retirees led by Rudi Beichel, a world-renowned rocket scientist who was a leader in the U.S. space program. They formed Clean Energy Systems Inc. to pursue another monumental venture: using rocket technology with parts made by Tecma to create a system for generating inexpensive electricity without producing pollutants.
Fred Gunther Schwarz was born in 1931 in Tocopilla, Chile, where his German father was overseeing a power plant construction job for Siemens. His mother died of complications six days after giving birth, and he was raised mostly by his grandparents in Berlin during World War II.
He finished technical school and an apprenticeship in precision machining and engineering before emigrating to Brazil after the war. At 26, he left to seek a new life in the United States and made his way to Sacramento as Aerojet was seeking suppliers.
Mr. Schwarz was a fun, outgoing man who played racquetball and belonged to many clubs, including the Sacramento Turn Verein, Tamarack Ski Club and Swiss Club. He spent weekends boating, windsurfing and taking motor-home trips with his family.
He used the engineering and machining skills that won him industry acclaim and awards to design and make amazing toys, swing sets and kites for his grandchildren.
"If he was putting something together and couldn't figure out how a part was supposed to fit, he'd just make one himself," Susac said.
Besides work, Mr. Schwarz devoted himself to caring for his wife of 50 years, Rose-Marie. Diagnosed shortly after they were married, she died of multiple sclerosis in 2010.
He left his office every day at noon to eat lunch with her at home. She used a wheelchair for many years and made her way around their house with special grab bars, a scooter, furniture and other equipment that he modified or built from scratch to meet her specific needs.
"Even more than his business, she was the love of his life," his daughter said.